Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My 8 Steps to Ending Fear of Flying Forever

                           "Pray to God, but row away from the rocks. "   --  Arabic saying

    Yes, it's true. The Wimpy Cruiser used to be a very wimpy flyer. I never freaked out during the flight or planes have ever turned around on my account.

   But I used to be nervous flying. And I don't think I'm alone. And since I don't drink or take drugs (which certainly come in handy for some people in handling this little picadillo), I was left to my own devices to figure out how to settle myself down.

  Oh, you can spend hundreds of dollars for seminars which teach you how to manage the issue. I understand they mainly teach you to close your eyes just before take-off, and go to your "happy place." To basically pretend you are someplace else.

  Well, frankly, this always seemed silly to me. There's no denying where we are, folks.

"We're leaving on a jet plane! Don't know when we'll be back again...Oh, babe, don't let us crash..."      :-/

  During one pre-flight check a few years ago, as my heart began to pound with the scary, mechanical noises and jolts that shook the cabin as they loaded the luggage below, I came upon an epiphany. I realized immediately that I had the answer to my problem! My own 8 step plan became immediately evident to me. I was cured!

 Here's the program:

 1) Instead of DENYING that you are on an airplane (because really, who are we fooling here, anyway. Not you!) and going to your "happy place," scratch that. Your happy place is no longer a white sandy beach with palm trees gently wafting above. Your happy place is on that damn plane sitting in that damn seat!

 2) Forget about trying to get an aisle seat, the better to never get a peek out the window and perpetuate the lie that you are not on the plane at all. Go for the WINDOW seat, baby;

 3) As you sit in the window seat, look out the window at the engines, at the wings. Observe the crew preparing the plane. Don't close your eyes. Participate in the process;

4) This is a big one: you need to completely accept that you are not in control. The pilot, crew, air traffic controllers, mechanics who last worked on the plane --- THESE are the people controlling your fate. So just give it up. If the plane's going down, it's going down. And there's nothing YOU can do about it.

 Now, at first this thought is horrifying. But once you really absorb it, it's kind of a relief. YOU HAVE NO CONTROL. Let the professionals worry about it. Just sit back and enjoy the flight;

(And just a little note about God here: I never said you shouldn't pray. Nothing in this plan precludes praying. Go right ahead.)

5) Rely on statistics. Every day millions of people fly in jetliners and crashes are less and less frequent every year;

6) Now, while you may not have any control in whether the plane crashes or not, in the case of a crash or a hard landing, you may need to save yourself. So for the love of God, instead of going off to happy land while the stewardess (sorry, "flight attendant") gives you instructions how to exit the plane and safe your life -- be original and actually LISTEN to her.  Take out the cardboard directions in the back of the seat in front of you (the ones you always ignore), read them, and figure out how to get out of that plane as fast as possible, should the unthinkable become necessary.

In short: find the closest exit, and count the number of seat rows to the exit. Now that you have a plan in case the worst happens -- you can relax!  :-) People underestimate the calm feeling that comes over you when you realize that, per the Serenity Prayer, you have actually controlled what you CAN, and "turned over" the rest;

7) OK, now the plane is backing out, and you're heading out to the runway. This is often the most nervous time...waiting...waiting...waiting. For entertainment, stand up and look back at all of those pathetic sacks, sitting there with their eyes closed, pulses racing, trying to fool us into thinking that they're asleep while they're really frantically trying to go to their happy place.

 Pity them. There is nothing you can do for these folks. Wish them well and move on.

 Now. Sit back down and fasten your seatbelt. You're in the for the ride of your life!

 Think of yourself as an astronaut during the countdown of a rocket into outer space. Feel the revving of the engines. Marvel at the amazing, powerful technology! Get into it! You're so lucky to be here! Think how many humans never even get the chance to go up in a jetliner. But not YOU! You're one of the fortunate ones!

 8) OK, we're hurtling down the runway now. Make yourself LOOK OUT THE WINDOW. Watch the whole thing in amazement and excited awe. Try to have sympathy for the guy next to you, sweating bullets and cramming his eyes shut in panic. He's missing the whole thing!

  Here's the best part. FEEL the centrifical force as the jet hurtles forward. Be amazed at the power which is pressing you into the back of your seat. Look outside again. Smile at yourself.

  3. 2. 1. Liftoff!

   As the jet lifts off, look down as far as you can. Press your face and palms against the glass as a 5 year old would.  Again, marvel at the sight -- at the simply amazing fact that you are even here doing this at all!

   The takeoff and first few moments of flight may be the most horrifying, but they are also the most beautiful. Watch the land and ocean spread out below you. Watch the sunrise and the clouds as you slice through them. It's a spectacular sight -- and lucky you: you get to see it, in person!

  So -- that's pretty much the program. FULL IMMERSION. It worked for me like a charm and I apply it every time I fly.

  Now, this program also comes in handy during my sailing adventures as well. For instance, during our  one night passage to Isla Mujeres, Mexico from Belize, we experienced some big wind and even bigger waves and swells.

  So instead of going down into the cabin and being bounced around the interior of the boat like a ping pong ball, trying to "deny" that I'm out at sea in the middle of nowhere being battered all over hell -- I choose to place myself at the highest, most visible spot in the cockpit -- face forward, and ride Espiritu like the bucking bronco she is.

                          Not only does this help squash my fear, it also eases seasickness. (Just a tip).

           You can see the growing wave heading right towards Espiritu in this photo. These were big ones. I had to trust that Espiritu would propel over the top of this one, just like she has every other one of the thousands of waves she has sailed over during her 30 years at sea.

      How fortunate I was to be here, experiencing the overwhelming power of the sea.

      So, give my 8 point plan a try. Let me know how it works!

     Chris and I remain anchored at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We'll be looking for a weather window to make the 3 day sail north to the Florida Keys.

    Hasta luego, my fellow happy travelers...   :-)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ambergris Caye, Belize

            Captain Chris assesses the anchorage in shallow, windy but beautiful Ambergris Caye

                After anchoring in the very shallow Caye Caulker, it was even more nerve-wracking
entering the Ambergris Caye anchorage at San Pedro. Average depth of this anchorage here? 7-8 feet.

          It's not only very shallow here, but the holding is bad -- it's near solid coral. This photo
           shows our double anchors, which we deployed for the first time during our adventure.

              The Belizian island of Ambergris Caye is world famous for it's crystal clear
                                 water and death-defying SCUBA diving adventures.

     Most famous of all is the Big Blue Hole, just offshore from Ambergris Caye.  It's beautiful and horrifying to behold.  IMHO they should call it the big BLACK hole, though, because it looks like the hole goes all the way to hell. But in actuality, it is "only" several hundred feet deep.


         You can dive it, and many do, but you've gotta go down 100 feet before the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites come into view.  Cough. Hack. A-hem. Did this wimpy cruiser get up the courage for such a dive?   Me thinks not, sadly. Ah, well.  But thankfully,  lunatics like these guys in the photo above go for us and film the whole godforsaken entry into the portal of hell, so you and I can enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of our couch at home (or aboard)... LOL...   :-)

                   Any-whoo, we made the day sail north to Ambergris with our
                                         buddy boat Blue Shift, from Denmark.

  Me with "The Norseman," as we lovingly referred to A.J. and Philip, the Danish crew of Blue Shift

        I've gotta give a big shout-out to these young guys. With no sailing experience, they flew to the Bocas del Toro in Caribbean Panama, sailed through the Panama Canal, crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, sailed to Easter Island (!) then to Ecuador, back through the Canal and up the Western Caribbean to Belize...

....all in 9 months.    Without an auto-pilot.     YIKES. Yowza. These guys are my heroes. And they're not done yet!  Soon they'll be crossing the Caribbean to Martinique, where they'll jump off and sail across the Atlantic, returning to Scandinavia.

 Wow. Did I say they don't have an auto-pilot and will be hand steering the whole way?

And to top it off, they had their (locked) dinghy stolen here in Ambergis Caye, right off the dock. Infuriated, they spent hours looking all over the island and finally found her, no worse for wear, up on the beach next to a local watering hole (natch).   Looks like it was nothing more than a joy ride by some local youths, thankfully.

   Philip smiles bravely as he ponders the daunting return trip to Denmark. Keep smiling, my friend!  


           The view from our favorite coffee house and internet cafe. Espiritu is in the distance.


                                   Palms sway every which way

   The main form of transportation on this small island is golf carts. And get this: they use John Deere tractors to pull merchandise from place to place!

                                            Yeee-haw!      :-)

          Our "swimming pool" over the side of Espiritu. We don't have a shower aboard, but we have no trouble bathing in the salt water (we just use a bit more shampoo and soap) -- and then giving ourselves a final fresh-water rinse aboard in the cockpit. It works fine for us, and in fact, is a real pleasure!

                                          We're sure going to miss this view

                                                              Bike on beach

        Everywhere we've traveled we've found our friends the Mormons working hard evangelizing. Here, they were really smart: they scored a mission house right on the beach! Location, location, location.   :-)

                               Colorful scene in San Pedro, the only town on the island

                                       Boat and snowy egret in distance

                         I was entranced by the three layers of clouds. Can you find them?

                                     Fishing is, of course, also big business here

             Christmas decorations mingle with Day of the Dead skulls


          In parts of town, the beach and the street are the same. You would think I would find this offensive, ecologically speaking, but here it just seemed right, especially since golf carts are the main means of getting around. And the island is clean.

               They've got their golf carts, and we've got our faithful dinghy!

                                                       Clouds and sea

This young tourist from Nevada gracefully modeled his shirt which said: "Keep calm. Things are
           about to get weird." Indeed. Anyway, with the hat and bright colors, I liked his style.

        One thing I love about Ambergris Caye is the fact that although the town of San Pedro is built around tourism, local children are constantly playing all around -- on the beach, around the palapas, amidst the SCUBA shops.  I'm sure some tourists find it irritating, but for me it was charming.

                     Local children ride bikes on the beach in front of a beachfront hotel

     Giving candy to the children, then watching their faces light up is the biggest pleasure of my day. :-)

                                                                     Boys being boys

        This scene just amazed me when I took the photo. Check out the idilic locale for this waterfront public playground.  Now notice the children of different races all happily playing together. If I saw this photo I might cynically think it was some doctored photo for an ad promoting diversity and tolerance. It looks fake and too good to be true.

  Except it's real. Welcome to Belize.    :-)

  So, as I write this Chris and I are safely anchored in Isla Mujeres, Mexico after a brisk (10 knots over ground!) overnight sail. More on that later.

  During out last night in Belize, it dawned on me that our nearly year and a half of living in Mexico and Central America is coming to a close. Upon this realization, tears sprung to my eyes.

   It will take me months to untangle my feelings and actually figure out how this trip has changed and affected me.   For now...there are only the tears...of gratitude and joy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shallow times in Caye Caulker, Belize

                       Enjoying a blissful sunny day in Caye Caulker, Belize


            Caye Caulker is a small Belizian island with white, sandy streets made of fine coral

             That's the anchorage off the end of the dock.  The water is shallow. It is all through Belize. That's what gives the ocean that lovely aquamarine color -- the fact that the sand is only a few feet under the surface of the crystal clear water. The anchorage here is 6 - 10 feet deep.  That doesn't leave alot of room for error.

                                      For this reason, many sailors skip Belize completely.

                                 But how on God's green earth could we miss scenes like this?

               This was our view for our daily coffee and internet  (insert gentle ocean breeze here)

       I pride myself on constantly learning new things, and I learned something new in Caye Caulker. This helpful sign outside a liquor store says: "Drinking is fun. Try this!" Wow. I'd never heard that! Well, in that case, I'll have to try it tonight.  I'll report back...

                                                                            Flat, calm

         Meet Caroline, a Belizian woman who runs this cute little ice cream shop/bar. See the little TV at the top of the photo? Caroline was watching the LIFETIME MOVIE CHANNEL!

O.M.G.     :-)

 I haven't seen a single Lifetime movie in almost two years (My friend Laurel and I used to lovingly call Lifetime movies "cheezies" back in the states). Like a moth to a flame, powerless to resist,  I bellied up to the bar, mesmerized. In her adorable Caribbean accent, Caroline eagerly brought me up to speed on the movie she was watching.

 I believe the plot involved a husband who was having an affair with Cheryl Ladd's best friend (or something). The details are unimportant. What matters is, we did some major female bonding. Caroline and I shared hugs and tearful goodbyes after our powerful Lifetime experience...with the hubster standing off to the side rolling his eyes.   :-)

Score one for positive international relations!    You're welcome, America...   :-)

Such is the power of the Lifetime movie. (LOL)

By the way, if you are tempted to apply the "shallow" metaphor to my Lifetime Movie Channel experience...all I can say is, "Back off, Jack!" The "shallow" metaphor only applies to the water.

You'll never understand Lifetime movies, boys. No worries. It's all good...

               And anyway,  guys, there are some things about you I'll never understand either. ;-)

                        But I digress. Back to Caye Caulker, Belize:


                                                         Empty docks and blue skies

                           The white sand was nearly blinding under the sun -- shades are mandatory!

                            I enjoyed this typical Belizian meal of jerk chicken, beans and rice,
                                              cole slaw and fried plantain at an outdoor eatery

                   But just as I started the meal, this unattended Rottweiller mix roamed
                                in off the street looking for scraps (or more than scraps...)

           Considering his bloodline, we were afraid to even toss him a scrap, for fear he would feel entitled to more. So we ignored him and hoped for the best -- after which he approached the next table.            Just another reminder that we ARE still in Central America.


                                                  Beachside vendor

                                                  Local fisherman tries his luck

                                                Shallow water, deep roots

     After 5 days here, we pulled anchor as the wind turned and began blowing us dangerously close to the beach.   Buddy boating with "The Norseman" as we lovingly call our new Danish friends A.J. and Philip aboard Blue Shift, we headed north through bad weather to our current location, Ambergris Caye.

                It's even shallower here in Ambergris Caye.  But more on that in my next post.

    XOXOXO Liz and Chris